Last month, The New Civil Rights Movement published the first of several exclusive excerpts from writer and composer Joel Derfner’s new book, Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family, which was exceptionally well-received.
Today, we are proud to share with our readers Part II.
Next weekend, we will publish Part III.
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Joel Derfner didn’t want to get gay married. He doesn’t gay grocery shop and he doesn’t have a gay driver’s license. Joel’s road to marriage was burdened with barriers and labels simply because the love of his life is of the same sex. Recognizing that his personal story is a reflection of the national conversation about the “new civil rights movement,” Joel, with searing wit and unrelenting honesty and humor, wrote Lawfully Wedded Husband: How My Gay Marriage Will Save the American Family.
“I bought more ornaments for the Christmas tree!” Mike called as he closed the front door behind him.
“We already have too many ornaments for the Christmas tree,” I said, not looking up from Persuasion. Louisa was about to get her concussion, and I’d be damned if I was going to interrupt the story now just because my boyfriend had passed a store with shiny things in the window.
“I know, but these were so fabulous I couldn’t help myself. Come and take a look at them.”
“But I’m reading.”
“Too bad. You have to come look at ornaments.”
“Fine,” I snapped, dog-earing the page—Captain Wentworth was unlikely to have a change of heart while I wasn’t looking—and walked into the living room, where Mike stood beside the Christmas tree taking things out of shopping bags. (I’m Jewish, but Mike is not, so I seize the holiday as an opportunity to decorate.) I sat down on the couch, picked up the nearest bundle of pink tissue paper on the coffee table, and unwrapped it to find a huge, glittering purple star. “Oh, my God,” I said; I could tell Mike was manipulating me by playing on my weakness for purple, but I was powerless to resist. “You’re right. That’s gorgeous.”
Perhaps this was worth a few minutes before returning to my book after all. I unwrapped another ornament, which revealed itself to be a shiny tin ear of corn.
“Hmph,” I said. Mike is from Iowa and thinks of himself, because it drives me crazy, as a corn proselyte. He feels he has both the right and the responsibility to torment me by threatening to replace our chandelier with a corn-shaped light fixture or buying shiny tin ears of corn with which to titivate our Christmas tree. It’s awful, but I haven’t figured out yet how to stop him.
I unwrapped a couple more ornaments, which were, I was grateful to see, closer to the purple star than to the ear of corn. The contents of the last box, however, when I got it open, looked, confusingly, not like an ornament but like a ring sort of thing. It was round and heavy and gold, with an engraved pattern and a little pink jewel—lovely, but far too small to be a Christmas tree ornament. I turned to Mike, puzzled, and saw that he was down on one knee.
“Joel,” he said, “will you marry me?”
And I looked at him, looked at the man who had been my comfort and my support for years, through trials and tribulations greater than I had ever expected to face, gazed deep into his eyes, so full of love, and said, “Hang on a second.”
“I’ll be right back.”
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Okay,” I answered, “I haven’t been an astrology addict for years and years but this is super-extra important so I have to go check and make sure the moon isn’t void of course. Stay right there.”
I leapt over the coffee table, ran into Mike’s office, prayed as I woke his computer up that the Cablevision gods might choose to be merciful today and allow us the elusive Internet access for which we so grossly overpaid their earthly representatives, checked the void-of-course ephemeris online, ran back, leapt over the coffee table again, turned to Mike, took his hands, and said, “Yes! Yes, I’ll marry you!”
“I don’t know, you left me hanging a long time. I’ve been having second thoughts.”
“Get away from me.”
“Your shirt is on inside out.”
The ring was a little big; when I pointed out that we’d need to have it resized, though, Mike furrowed his brow. “I don’t understand. I used one of your rings as a guide.”
“The one on the chain in your desk drawer.”
“Are you serious?”
“Honey, that ring is a replica I bought online of the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. That’s the only size it comes in—they sell it with the chain because you’re not supposed to wear it. Didn’t you see all the Elvish lettering?”
“I’ve always thought you were the greatest force for evil in the world.”
But we spent the evening watching romantic comedies with his arms around me all the same.
Joel is from South Carolina, where his great-grandmother had an affair with George Gershwin. After leaving the south, he got a B.A. in linguistics from Harvard. Realizing that linguistics was not his métier, he moved to New York to get an M.F.A. in musical theater writing from the Tisch School of the Arts.
Musicals for which he has written include Postcards from Another Planet, Signs of Life, Another Annette and Swish. The scores have been produced in London, Chicago, Seattle, New York, and various cities in between.
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